Ken Paxton's impeachment exposes divisions in Collin County Republican Party
Collin County has long been a Republican stronghold that’s home to conservatives like impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. But there are divisions among local Republicans — and Democrats may be gaining a foothold.
Some of those divisions became even more apparent after Paxton's impeachment late last month.
Texas House Republicans from Collin County — all five of them — said in a joint statement soon afterwards that there was sufficient evidence to impeach Paxton. And that was how they had voted.
“This was an incredibly difficult vote as, for most of us, Ken has been a longtime friend,” the statement said.
But the chair of the Collin County Republican party condemned the representatives’ votes. Abraham George called the impeachment a circus that lacked due process in a statement on social media.
He said Republicans recruited Democrats to go after a conservative Republican.
“Real corruption is when you won’t allow fair and due process,” the statement said.
This isn’t the first time Republicans in Collin County have found themselves on opposite sides of a polarizing issue. Several Republican precinct chairs, including Clint Pruett of McKinney, Joseph Harwell of Plano and Joe Cruz of Princeton, spoke to the Republican commissioners court last year, repeating false claims about 2020 election fraud. Precinct chairs help promote the party and the election of Republicans to office.
“I recently became a precinct chair and have great concern about the integrity of the vote,” Harwell said at a meeting in July.
“As a precinct chair GOP, I've learned some things that are of concern,” Pruett said.
“As a precinct chair with 198 Collin County GOP [his precinct], that the election, the executive committee rather, passed a resolution in April calling for a return to precinct level voting utilizing hand-marked and hand-counted paper ballots,” Cruz said.
George said the chairs were speaking as individuals, not on behalf of the party.
Other Republicans had referred to Collin County’s election systems as flawless. The Texas Secretary of State’s Office called the county “the model of how to run elections in Texas” in its 2020 election audit report. Collin County Republican precinct chair David Lethe told KERA before the 2022 election that’s why he had no worries about election integrity in Collin County.
“Our systems have so far been infallible,” he said. “Every time we have a count, our machines are 100% accurate and that has not changed.”
Democrats say the divide amongst Collin County Republicans is to their advantage. In 2022, voters elected the county’s first Democratic state representative in three decades. On the cusp of that victory, Caleb Milne from the county’s Democratic party predicted that it’s only a matter of time until the county flips blue.
“There's no way to stop this progression,” Milne said. “It's not only a demographic problem, but a shifting attitudes problem.”
No Democrats won Collin County in 2020 — but there were three in 2022. That included State Representative Mihaela Plesa.
Her race was close — she won by less than a thousand votes. But Democratic momentum is growing as the county diversifies. Plesa told Collin County residents at a rally after the Allen shooting need to build on that.
“We can continue putting more people at the table,” she said.
There’s been a spike in the county’s Asian population. Most of the county’s major cities are at least twenty percent Asian — including Allen where eight people were killed in a mass shooting at a local outlet mall. Four of the victims who died were Asian.
Hundreds of protesters from Collin County spoke out against gun violence and legislators who don’t support gun reforms after the shooting. The protesters chanted “vote them out” throughout the rally and called out lawmakers by name, including Leach.
A crowd also turned out last weekend to support Paxton after he was impeached, with participants claiming the process against him wasn’t fair.
Whether he was motivated by a political rift — or by the weight of the allegations against Paxton — Leach not only voted for Paxton’s impeachment but also was named to the board of managers who prosecute the case against the attorney general before the Texas Senate.
Leach and Paxton both won re-election in 2022 with more than half the votes in Collin County — and so did most of the other Republicans on the ballot.
For now, how the divisions among Republicans and changing demographics will impact on Collin County politics is still a question mark. That may change with time — and perhaps after the results from a few elecitons are known.
Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caroline Love is a Report For America corps member for KERA News.
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